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Iím standing on the crowded #84 bus, on my way home from work. Itís raining outside, and everyone is soggy cold, trying to avoid thinking about the discomfort by reading or stuffing tiny blaring speakers into their ears. I look down and see that the man sitting closest to me is working on a crossword puzzle that heís found at the back of one of those free newspapers. I see that his pen has run out of ink. He is shaking it, scribbling violent invisible circles on the corner of the page, breathing on the nib, but it wonít write.
Iím hoping that heíll reach into his briefcase and pull out another pen, but instead he sighs, tucks the pen into the newspaper, resigning himself to window gazing. Poor guy, I think. I have several pens in my backpack. Should I give him one? Yes. It will make his day. Oh no Ė the driver likes his brake. Should I take my hand off the pole here and ride this lurching bus freestyle as I rummage through my backpack for my good deed? Too late. This is my stop. Iím sorry, redheaded guy with a weird hat who likes crossword puzzles.
After I get off the bus, the redheaded man with the weird hat who likes crossword puzzles continues to stare out the window at the rain. This is going to be a long ride, he thinks. He thinks about his dog and how he would rather not take it for a walk tonight. Too wet, he reasons. He hates disappointing his dog, but he knows that disappointing his mother has more consequences. A muddy paw print on the carpet will earn him and the dog a weekís worth of sour words. Itís going to be a long night, he thinks.
I figure itís worth the risk and so I hurriedly fling the straps of my backpack off my arms and undo the zipper. A car cuts in front of the bus and a brake jolt sends me staggering, but I reach for the pole at just the right moment to regain my balance. I decide that I am going to have to become more intimate with this pole if this is going to work at all. I wrap my arm around the pole and grip it tight with my armpit. Now I have two hands free to find the pen.
It doesnít take long to find one, as if the gods, aware of my charitable goal, decided to give my fingers night vision, allowing them to conquer the shadows of the books and canvas. I hold it out, placing it in the manís line of vision. Here, I say. I noticed that your pen ran out there. You can have this one. I have lots. He is a little surprised, and seems unsure whether or not to take it. But this brief moment of awkwardness is worth the smile that ensues. Thank you, he says. Thatís very kind of you.
Just before the doors close, I manage to fly down the steps and out into the rainy world, feeling pretty good about myself. The manís smile has burned fast into my memory, and I know that it will stay with me for at least a day or two, helping me to deflect any negativity I might encounter in that span of time. I imagine him making good progress on his crossword, I imagine the animated story he will tell his mother as sheís eating, and I imagine how David will react to the very same animated story at our dinner.
Back door, please! I shout to the driver over the crowd, and many of my fellow commuters turn to see me there at the bottom of the steps, shaking the bar. Back door! I shout again, but the driver chooses not to hear me. His eyes are glued to his mirrors. He has already chosen which car to follow, and after it whishes past the bus, we are in motion again and my opportunity for escape is gone. People give me piteous looks, then turn away quickly, glad that they wonít have to walk five extra blocks in the rain.
The worst is looking at old Joe Crossword. I can tell that my continued presence is making him feel uncomfortable. He is still smiling down at the newspaper but it is a false smile now. He is feigning happy concentration, but really I know that he knows that he is the reason why I missed my stop. Avoiding my eyes, he is debating whether or not to apologize to me, and I hope he decides against it. He never asked for a pen, after all. This is my good deed and weíre just going to have to ride it out.
I get off at Macdonald Street, much to our mutual relief. I really do hope he enjoys his crossword, I think, as I lower my face against the falling wetness. I decide that the walk home will give me time to think about what just happened, and so I make my way back down the avenue. My shoes are leaky, however, and so my thoughts canít help but absorb into the wet wool that is dampening my toes. Yuck. I see a green button on the sidewalk and pick it up. It will be a nice addition to my collection.
I give him the pen and he is delighted. Ho ho, he chuckles. Thank you! Heís like Santa Claus, I decide, and if this wasnít my stop, I would definitely sit on his knee and weíd finish the puzzle together. No problem, I say. I have lots. I wish him luck on his crossword as I scramble with my bag to make it out the door. Out on the street, I feel good about the world. Inside the bus, he wields his new pen to fill in the squares of 22-Down, but this pen wonít write either. Ho ho ho!
Back door, please! I shout over the crowd as I jiggle the bar. Others turn to look at me, and seeing my distress Ė a distress they have likely experienced once or twice themselves Ė they join in on the call. Back door! Driver, back door please! Let the poor guy off! The bus was already halfway in the lane, but the driver, responding to the cries of his masses, moves his foot to the brake pedal. The green light comes on and we all rejoice internally. Thanks everyone, I shout. We are all crows, loud and on the lookout for cats.
Immediately after I make the gesture, I regret it, because he isnít smiling. No, his nostrils are flaring now, and the flesh of his brow hangs in menacing lumps over his eyes. Get your filthy hand out of my face, you faggot, are his words. I am so stunned that my hand begins to shake and I drop the pen on the floor. It rolls through the puddles of gritty shoe drippings, under some seat occupied by somebody. You should really learn to mind your own fucking business, he tells me. The tears well, and I have missed my stop.
When breathing on the nib fails to get it working, he calmly slips the pen into a side pocket of his briefcase. Lemonade from lemons, I watch him make primary use of the newspaper in his lap Ė he reads it. After a surprised humpf over his horoscope, he flips to and past the celebrity gossip page, and soon heís immersed in the news of the day. Terror in Gaza, Olympics costing Vancouver taxpayers a fortune, the Obamaís are in Hawaii: he takes it all in greedily, for someday all of this information will reappear in newspapers as crossword puzzle clues.
Iím standing on the crowded #84 bus, on my way home from work. Itís raining outside, and everyone is soggy cold, trying to avoid thinking about the discomfort by reading or stuffing tiny blaring speakers into their ears. I look up and notice an ad among the many lining tops of the windows. Itís for a new kind of car, and I think itís out of place, and I hope it wonít convert any public transit enthusiasts. I look down and thereís a man sitting with a newspaper in his lap, staring out the window. Oh, this is my stop.
17-Across: Relating to a threshold (7). The word is liminal, and itís a word that my professors have been throwing around a lot lately as they point out the critical threshold moments in the texts weíre reading. And I cringe every time they use it, because I believe that every moment of our existence is liminal. All of our actions have consequences and all of our non actions have consequences as well. We have so much control over our lives and yet we have so little. All we can do is steer toward the good and hope for the best.
Iíve gotten to this particular level in my French studies where I can look around the classroom and all I see are rows and rows of beautiful women. The throngs who had been taking French classes only for the credit needed in order to graduate are gone now, thankful to be done with the language, leaving only these smart, sexy beauties and a small bouquet of lavender men like myself. Looking at their long, shiny hair, their immaculate complexions, their endlessly chic wardrobes, smelling all their soft perfumes, I feel sorry for straight men everywhere for missing out.
I think you are talented, she said. I want you to do the following. Youíll have moments of clarity, flickering moments when you feel like youíre on to something. Your job is to honour these moments, seize them, pursue them. Youíll find that this will allow your mind to grow. As I sat there in her office, listening to her wise words, I could have cried. It is rare that one receives such encouragement as this. I must learn to recognize that flicker and kindle it, throw myself into a fire which is certainly very dangerous, rise as a phoenix.
My French Literature professor is blind, and I must admit that it affects me deeply. Sometimes it is so hard to concentrate on what sheís saying because I am so preoccupied with her blindness. As she runs her lovely hands over her Braille lecture notes, I just want to switch minds with her and be blown away by all of the incredible maps that must be in her head Ė the world in textures, in steps, laid out in smells and sounds. I could never ask her about these things, though. I would seem insensitive, ungrateful for my sense of vision.
If you look up the word Ďshamaní online or elsewhere, youíre bound to be presented with many varying definitions, but something common to most or all of these definitions is that a shaman is someone with the power to connect the spirit world with the physical world. Lately Iíve been thinking that if each human being has a soul inside of them Ė really an entire spirit world contained within them Ė then we are all potentially shamans. Each time we open our mouths to speak to another, each time we create, we are connecting the spirit world with the physical world.
Mrs. Green is an English teacher at the J.S. Herbert Collegiate in Regina. A habitually rejected author and self-proclaimed expert in "everything poetry", she is kind of a bitch and eats her lunch in her classroom instead of the teacherís lounge. Feeling horribly offended and personally attacked by Elizabeth Alexander's poetry recital at todayís Inauguration, she decided to make her students try their hands at some verse, hoping to somehow feel better by proving that even a teenager from a hillbilly place like Saskatchewan can write a better poem than Alexander. Here are some of the poems that were generated:
Barack Obama Yeah - a poem by Jenny Reno, the passionate, ironic hipster girl in third row
B is for this man we call Barack
A is for his Awesomeness
R is for Renewal
A is for Amazing
C is for a Country united
K is for Kindness, shared freely
O is for Openness
B is for a Breakthrough
A is for America
M is the Melody of a new morning
A is for Awareness
Y is for Yrteop, spelled any way you like
E is for Excitement
A is for his Awesomeness
H is for Hope
Canadian Envy - a series of modern haiku poems which inevitably led to a week-long suspension for student Jonathan Verity, the author of the poems and a notorious stoner.
I donít quite know why
We have to write these poems.
America has dreamed
Of President Obama
For eight lengthy years.
Should look at its Parliament,
Find similar dreams.
Stephen Harper sucks,
Deserves no place in office
Or in poetry.
When Iím old enough,
You will find me with ballots
In hand, speaking out.
Until good days come,
I will be behind the school
Smoking pot with friends.
Lighten up - by Anonymous
Dear Mrs. Green,
How are you today?
Really, how are you?
I see you wore pearls today,
Your blouse of navy blue.
How nice you look,
How especially fresh
For todayís Inauguration.
Nobody could ever, ever say
You didnít dress for the occasion.
I see you there
Sitting at your desk,
Brow furrowed to the bone,
Maybe your scowling is revealing
Youíre writing a poem of your own?
Read it aloud,
Please, Mrs. Green.
Tell us all you want to say.
Like a pool of light, let your words be spread
On this monumental day.
Horror in Belgium yesterday, and I canít help but ask myself some important questions about the nature of this world. I think about my nephews Ė two and three Ė and I wonder how a person could become so disturbed, possessed. If I ever reach such a level of madness, I would hope to take my own life before anyone elseís, let alone a childís. What can be done? We need to start talking to each other, listening to each other, taking care of each other, respecting each other, LOVING each other. Love is the best antidote to any and all poisons.
1: Take an empty yogurt or margarine container outside with you. Head to the beach or to a park.
2: Fill your container with shell shards, driftwood and smooth stones, or leaves, pine cones and fallen twigs.
3: Run on home, and let your excitement grow on the rhythmic jingling coming from your bucket of treasures.
4: Sit on an open section of floor. Lay like items in lines, biggest to smallest, darkest to lightest. Behold.
5: Make shapes out of your new collection. Shell shards make good fish scales or plumage. Small pieces of driftwood make lovely flower petals.
Iím tired of working at the post office. Itís not the customers, itís my fellow employees. Theyíre rude to patrons, theyíre rude to each other, and theyíre rude to me. They donít recycle despite the many signs Iíve put up that encourage them to do so, and Iím afraid that if I keep within their company any longer, I will become just as apathetic and miserable as they are. Iíve resolved to put in my notice tomorrow. This is the Year of the Ox. 2009 Ė 1985 = 24. This is my year to shine, to rid myself of unnecessary burdens.
Notes on The Winterís Tale
I am Leontes, King of Sicilia,
Infamous for my snowy reign,
The drinker of chilled spider cocktails
Of my own frostbitten thoughts.
My icicle horns melted in Apolloís light,
Dripping, falling from my eyes,
Froze again, dusting the graves
Of my unfortunate family,
A storm of goblin snowflakes
Shrouding all the land in ice.
Cold and alone for sixteen years,
With nothing but these footprints
To be my guide, I have learned
What it means to create a winter,
How much danger lies
In not pausing to see
The flowers for what they truly are.
Iím not much of a poet. Yet. In the past, I thought poetry was something that Iíd never really enjoy, but Iíve learned over the past year that Iíd never been exposed to good poems, or that Iíd never taken the time required to deconstruct them, and so now I view the genre very differently. Iíve come to believe that anyoneís prose can benefit from an exploration of verse. Iím just going to have to plunge into these mysterious poetic caverns and try not to be too horrified at the terrible metaphors that I will find and certainly create there.
There are some pretty disgusting things on the Internet these days. Iím not talking about porn Ė thatís been around for a while. Iím talking about shock pornography Ė the sites that aim to feed the ever-growing addiction to that feeling of horrified-yet-intrigued disbelief. Girls with cups, men with jars, etc. Why are guys my age so obsessed with it? What started this new wave of disturbed fascination? Iím afraid of what will come next. I donít want to know what will come next. Please donít mention it to me, donít show me. It hurts me in a way I canít describe.
My eyes are dark and swollen, practically ruined after their long, three-day journey. They have been from London to Cumberland, to Honduras, to Cumberland again, to Hampshire, back to London, to Paris and to Cumberland once more. They've caught Typhus fever in Blackwater Park, buried who knows who in Limmeridge Churchyard, and have encountered a ruthless, murderous Brotherhood of gentrified Italians. I really hope they survive the day, that they make it through my in-class essay at 1pm on Collins' masterpiece, The Woman in White. Great book, but if you venture to read it, give yourself more than three days.
You are working on your 100 Words entry for the day. Itís a particularly important entry because it speaks for an important part of your soul. Youíve wanted to write these thoughts down for a while, and now you have. Itís done. Almost. Tools, Word Count, and
Ė 100 words exactly. Or perhaps you write in a journal, and you count by the soft tapping of your pen Ė 98, 99, and
Ė 100 words exactly. Itís the literary equivalent of a basketball swish. The cosmos and you are suddenly working together, making keys, unlocking doors to happier places.
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